What is Faith? – Part 2Tom Ballinger
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understood that the worlds were formed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb.11:1-3).
It is in these three verses that we get the Bible definition of the word “faith.” In order to learn what “faith” is we must recognize what “substance” means. “Sub” is a prefix meaning under; underlying such as sub-strate, sub-terranean or sub-soil. “Substance” like “substantial” has the idea of solid or firm; like and underlying foundation. In plainer words “faith is the foundation of things hoped for”; our hope is to be based on a foundation. Verse 1 is to be based on a foundation. Verse 1 says faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” Evidence is something that furnishes proof. If you have evidence you have proof of a crime, proof of something that happened or something that exists. So then the eye of faith sees the evidence of things not seen. There are things which are unseen but that clearly exist, and they are known to exist because the eye of faith can clearly see them. The definition of faith could be this: “faith is the foundation of things looked forward to, and it is the proof that these unseen realities known to believers do actually exist.” Stated another way, “Faith is the FOUNDATION’ of things hoped for, the PROOF of things not seen.”
The expression “of things HOPED FOR” points out that there are things to be hoped for. Many of us hope of many different things. But we need to have a basis or ground for our hope. The question arises, “Upon what FOUNDATION are you basing your hope”? We may hope for many things but if our hope is not based on a foundation then it becomes mere wishful thinking. A student that hopes for better grades but never studies has no basis or foundation for his hope. A man that sincerely hopes for a good job but will not work has no grounds to hope. A man with no legs has a right to hope to be a great dancer but his hope is without grounds and is really a dream instead of a hope based upon a foundation. All these may sincerely and earnestly desire to come to the realization of their hope, but in each instance their hope is without FOUNDATION.
Our hope, as well as the hope of others, depends upon what our hope is based! As far as our hope for eternity, it all rests upon “how faithful is God to His promises!”. Two points to consider: 1. If there be no God, 2. If His promise is not true; then we would have no foundation whatever for our hope. Our hope would be groundless. As far as our eternity, it all hinges upon the fact that God has spoken and what He said is true.
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing (cometh) by the Word of God”. (Rom.10:17)
If we have heard nothing from God, then there can be nothing to believe. If God had not spoken and we had not heard anything there would be no room or place for faith. We may think, imagine, or hope for faith, but we cannot possibly believe it, because we had not heard anything about it. Our hopes, thoughts and imaginations are all in vain, being without any “foundation” whatsoever.
“Abraham believed God” Rom. 4:3. In order for Abraham to believe God, God had to speak. God spoke; Abraham heard and he believed what he heard. What Abraham heard came “by the word of God”, and His faith came by hearing. ” God caused Abraham to hope; hence believing God. Abraham placed his faith in what God had said, therefore Abraham’s faith was in God’s Word, and that was the foundation of his hope. If we believe God we do not hope in vain.
It is not a question of do we believe, but what do we believe? Or better still, whom do you believe? We can believe a lot of things that men tell us; we can believe a lot of promises of men, but the big question is, are they true? Many people say that if you are sincere in what you believe everything is ok. Just as long as you are sincere everything will be alright in the end. The more sincerely we believe that which is untrue, the worse off we are. If what we hear is untrue, then to doubt it means safety. When we give our ears to men, we can never be certain that what he says is true. But on the other hand when we give our heart to God, we can count on God being true to what He says. “He is faithful” in what he promises. Therefore the simplest definition of faith is “hearing God and believing what He says.”
The great sin is failure to believe God. Eve did not believe God; she hoped she would not die if she ate of the tree, her hope was vain. Her foundation was based on God not being true to His word. Thus we see the ramifications of Isaiah 1:2.
“Hear, oh heavens and give ear oh earth, for Jehovah hath spoken…”
God hath spoken. This is the great fact for us who have the word of God. If God has spoken, and he has, then it is absolutely imperative to believe what he hath said. God has given us His word and it contains the very word and promises that He would have us know and believe. Do we believe Him? If we do, then this is faith. And this faith is the “foundation” and “substance” of all we hope for. It is the proof of what we have heard but do not see. Thus faith is the opposite of sight. Man says, “seeing is believing.” What a fallacy that is. Faith is the demonstration of what we do not see. 2 Cor. 5:7 says “we walk by faith not by sight.” What we know is what we see. What we believe is what we hear. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
In Hebrews chapter 11 there are some examples of faith; those who heard God and believed what he said. These illustrations of faith are in the categories of “things hoped for” and “things unseen.”
Noah believed the truth of “things not seen as yet” (vs.7).
Others “in faith” saw the promises “afar off” (vs.13).
Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (vs. 27).
This is faith. This was Abraham’s faith. He “rejoiced to see my (Christ’s) day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). He saw it by faith “afar off”.
We read in verse 2 of Hebrews 11 that “for by it (faith) the elders obtained a good report.” Paul refers to them as the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1. God’s word was the “foundation” of all “hoped” for; and His faithfulness to His Word was all the elders had to rest upon. Men in the past believed God’s Word and lived by it. They conducted their lives accordingly as having heard a report from God, and having believed the report. The “elders” who “obtained a good report” did so “by faith.”
Through faith or by faith we understand ” that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (vs.3). By comparing Scripture with Scripture which is the only proper method of Bible interpretation, you will not that the “worlds” or “world” has reference to “ages” or “dispensations.” In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament it refers to the millennial age or dispensation.
“…it shall be not forgiven him, neither in this world (age) neither in this world (age) to come.” (Matt. 12:32).
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (age)” (Matt. 13:40).
“…and what shall be the sign of They coming, and of the end of the world (age)?” (Matt. 24:3).
“All the ends of the world (ages or dispensations) shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before THEE (Psalms 22:27).
“Behold, the Lord hat proclaimed unto the end of the world (age), Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, they salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with Him, and His word before Him (Is. 62:11).
In plainer words, by believing what God has said about the ages or dispensations we understand that they were directed or ordered by Him. The word “framed” in it’s Old English usage means “directed, as one steps.” The ages that have come and gone were directed by the invisible God. We believe it because we heard about it from the Word of God. God in His Word told us that the things and events that are taking place around about us are not what they seem to appear. Current events do not happen by chance but they happen because God, who can not be seen, orders and directs the events. Simply stated, God says that events that happened are caused and directed by Him, who is invisible. We understand this because God has said it, we thus understand it by faith. “Faith” can see the things “unseen.”
The paradox of this, ‘How can we see the things that are invisible?’ The answer is ‘by hearing’ the Word of God, “for faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’ (Rom. 10:17).
“Now faith is the substance (foundation) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds (ages” were framed (ordered) by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:1-30).
We should learn from this that we can not judge the outward appearances because they are not the natural results of circumstances but rather the outworking of the ages that are prepared and directed by God. We are told in 1Sam. 16:7 God “…seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
The flood Noah warned about appeared to be delayed, and because of the apparent delay the unbelief of others seemed to be encouraged. Noah did not judge by those appearances but instead he believed the Words of God as to “things not seen as yet.” It was by faith that Abraham and Sarah, though they were staggered at first by the words of the angel, believed God as to what they could not see. As soon as they “understood” that what the angel has said was the Words of God, they considered not the outward appearance of their natural, physical condition, but waxed “strong in faith.” The elders obtained a “good report.” God spoke to them, they heard the Words of God, they believed what God has said, hence the elders acted “by faith.” The elders walked by faith not by sight. They did not judge by the outward display of events happening about them, they instead believed the “report which came from God.” That is FAITH, BELIEVING THAT WHICH COMES FROM GOD.
THE INVISIBLE GOD HAS SPOKEN. We ought to heed what He said. Many people do not know what He has said. Many people do not know that He has spoken, and many do not realize that what He spoke has been written down and preserved in a Book. And it is written that “without FAITH (believing what God has said) it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.